Wednesday, January 30

Living (and Writing) in a World of Perception

When I was fifteen I leased a pony for a year so I could show her.  I had been riding her for a couple years before, but you had to lease to show.  She was a cute little thing--medium brown, white socks and stockings, a big white blaze, the shaggiest, fluffiest little mane and tail, and a hard to see white splotch on her tummy.  The woman who owned her had rescued her, and when she first laid eyes on her standing at the top of a hill in the distance, she thought, "Look at that Clydesdale..." and then the little pony came galloping down the hill up to the fence and she saw that, in fact, the Clydesdale was not so much eighteen hands as just thirteen.  Perspective is amazing.

Throughout the earning of my psych degree my fascination with perspective grew.  We are products of our perceptions, we live within them, grow based upon them, and relate to people as our perspectives either meld or clash.  And have you ever tried to explain your perspective to someone when it clashed with theirs?  Oh man.  You know, the person who clings so hard to their beliefs that their knuckles turn white and their face turns purple, and they start to hate you for trying to show them anything other than what they already know?

Now, this may just be my perception, but as readers and writers, I think we generally tend to be more open-minded.  We read in order to understand other perspectives, to experience what we might never have had the opportunity--or may have been so blessed as to never had--to experience.  What I'm wondering, is how often do writers set out to change perspectives, or does it just happen sometimes?

The first original story I ever really intended to finish--the one that's closest to being complete--explores the story of a girl who is bullied in school for being gay, but when she comes home, she is bullied just as much by her religious parents.  She ends up running away from home.  I started this book over three years ago, but I keep coming back to it adding some more, editing, intending to finish it.  Even if I never try to publish it, I feel compelled to write it.  To complete her story.  To share it with someone, anyone, who might relate or feel less alone by reading it.  I didn't start writing it because I wanted to change anyone's perceptions, but because once it was in my head I felt compelled to tell it.

Do you ever write to enlighten a potential reader to a new perspective?  Have you ever read something that changed something you thought or believed?

Monday, January 28

Hi, my name is Kas! What's yours?

Sorry, I'm a little delayed on getting my About Me up for today's Blogfest.  I had a job interview this morning, and was a little anxious getting ready for it.  I'm pretty horrendous at this whole talking about myself thing--it literally took me hours to write that little bio over there --->.  So instead of trying to coherently introduce myself, I'm just going to give you some fun facts about Kas:
  • I'm addicted to coffee.  I drink it black with a bit of cream (preferably flavored), but I'm also obsessed with every kind of latte and (white) mocha available.
  • I'm super duper into craftsy artsy funky things.  I paint.  I make jewelry (nothing fancy, just hemp  & bead type things).  I am forever working on some project or another.
  • I collect tie dye.  Collect it.  Shirts, scarves, shorts, socks, bandanas... home-made and otherwise.
  • My favorite color is black.  What?  Black's not a color?  Tell that to my closet...  Also, rainbow things.  And the cool color spectrum.
  • I'm kind of emotional.  The good, the bad, the ugly--but this means that although I have my low days... I can get pretty damn excited about things, too.  I view this is a positive.
  • Reading and writing are my escapes.  They have been serving that purpose since I learned to read at 4 years old and I expect them to continue to function as portals into a world apart from my own for as long as I can hold a pen or turn the pages.
  • My middle name is Uta.  That's pronounced Ooh-tuhh.  My grandmother's name is Ute (pronounced essentially the same).  And no, I don't know what it "means," but it IS a common German name.
  • I'm kind of a massive Harry Potter geek.  Harry Potter changed my life [see earlier post], and holds a very important place in my heart.  (Totally not trying to be melodramatic.)
  • I have a LOT of celebrity crushes.  Don't judge.  Angelina, my first true celebrity love, Megan Fox, my guilty pleasure actress (ie. I know she's not exactly the best actress in the world, but I mean get real... her eyes are TURQUOISE), Jennifer Lawrence--I mean she's Mystique AND Katniss... and have you seen her in an interview?  Whoops... I am definitely digressing...
  • I have two adopted four-legged children.  Both pitty mixes and both utterly adorable, cuddly, energetic.. troublemakers.
  • I am a middle child, Pisces, with a Psych degree.  I promise, this says something about me though I'm not entirely sure what.
  • Oh!  And I HAVE, in fact, lived out an 80's movie romantic moment.  Totally unscripted.  In real life.  Cross that off the bucket list!
Erm.  Okay.  So maybe you kinda sorta know a little bit about me now?  Thanks for stopping by!  : ]

My geeky HP phone cover
The naughty childrens

Friday, January 25

To Edit or Not To Edit.... While Writing

WRITE WRITE WRITE, edit a little, WRITE WRITE WRITE.  This is typically my writing process.  When I wrote fanfiction, I would write the section I planned to post, read through it once or twice, tweak it, check for spelling and grammar errors then post it.  When I started writing original stuff that no one was going to see in the immediate future, I slacked even more on the editing and concentrated almost solely on writing.  Every so often when I was stuck on what to write next or feeling unmotivated, I would read back through and do the tweaking thing, but not really edit.  The story I am working on now is the first I have ever accepted from the beginning that it would need significant editing--serious amounts both cut and added in--before it was even ready for the reading and tweaking part.  I have never completed a book (one is really really close), but because of this I have never tried to edit and clean something I've written enough to try to submit it for publication.  I am dreading that day because I tend to get emotionally attached to EVERYTHING including unnecessary dialogue scenes in my writing.

That being said, the story that I'm writing now is the first one that I've felt confident I can continue to add stuff in, alter scenes, cut out pieces I've already written and really continue to morph and grow this thing even as I'm still writing.  Having first started it for a WriMo, I really wanted to keep that mentality and write as much as possible, leaving the editing for later, but I've found that going back to add things in as it occurs to me or as I realize I need it is actually working really well for me.  My writing buddy has been making suggestions and pointing out holes, etc. (I've been sending her a few chapters at a time) and I've been working on adding in what I can and altering what needs to be changed BEFORE moving forward.  As much as I don't want to get caught up in the editing and fixing, by defining things that need defining, adding details that were missed, and developing characters in different ways or at different times to improve their place in the story, it is actually helping me to write the rest of the story.  By ironing out details and clarifying various things, I am strengthening the foundation upon which the rest of the story will be built.

Tuesday, January 22

How Harry Potter changed my life and taught me to write (otherwise known as the pros and cons of fanfiction)

When I was a kid I wrote horse stories.  All of the "books" I started to write or wanted to write had a horsey theme of some kind.  Why?  Because as a kid I read a lot of horse stories.  Then in fifth grade I was introduced to the Wonderful World of Harry Potter and life changed forever.  No, seriously, Harry Potter changed my life.  Here's how:
  1. Harry introduced me to the fantasy world of magic, and mythical creatures, and worlds apart from our own boring Muggle world.  This led me to pick up a number of other fantasy books in middle school and high school including Lord of the Rings, the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, and the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey all of which are some of my very favorite books, and THAT led me to stop writing horse stories and start writing young adult with a fantasy element type of stuff.
  2. Towards the end of high school I discovered the enchanting world of fan fiction.  It served as a completely new portal into the Harry Potter world, and within a few weeks of reading it, I had determined that I would write one of my own.  I ended up writing several.  Thus began my real introduction to writing, with actual people reading what I was writing and providing feedback.
  3. The website where I posted my fan fiction also happened to be an incredible community of people, and I began to make friends.  Friends that started as writers whose stories I read and loved, and readers that read (and shockingly) loved my stories; both of which eventually became friends that were genuinely invested in one another's lives and well-being keeping up on facebook, through e-mail, and for a lucky few meeting in real life.
Harry (and the friends I made on HPANA) essentially taught me how to write.  I built characters, developed storylines, convinced my readers that Draco and Ginny were destined to be together, and fell in love with the whole writing process.  It never occurred to me until recently, when my awesome new writing partner and friend from HPANA and I were discussing our original works, that entering the writing world with fan fiction could also be a handicap.  She pointed out that she thought it had crippled her because of the shortcuts we were able to take.  My jaw dropped at the realization that it had done the same to me, too.  The setting, the magical world and its limitations, a unique sport, characters, families, everything involved with the school, more details than we could ever describe had already been established.  All we had to do was create the story.  Introducing characters was simplified because we already knew and understood their backstory.  Determining the limits of a magical world--how much can they do--what is still not possible even with magic--was already thought out and answered for us.  So much of the deep thinking and layering of writing, the nitty gritty details that really make a place real, the solid foundation of a universe that is both unique and believable had already been done for us.  While we were developing characters and manipulating relationships that already existed, we weren't creating all of this vital story-making stuff.

Several years ago I began an epic journey into writing all seven years of the Marauders' time at Hogwarts.  Reading Marauder-era stories was one of my favorites and I wanted one of my own.  Throughout college my posts became more and more infrequent, as did everyone else's on HPANA until it was eventually shut down.  I had reached partially into their fourth year, but by that point I had really fallen in love with the original characters I created and the relationships I established.  This past NaNoWriMo I decided to try to transport my own characters and an adaptation of a couple of the marauders into a world of my own, continuing to write the story I had worked for so long on, but in an original format.  Turns out, characters respond completely differently when you put them into a new setting with new people, and anything reminiscent of the fanfiction story has become so minimal I believe it's rather difficult to recognize.  This is awesome, and even better than I had hoped, but establishing my own world has definitely been a challenge.  Yet at the same time, the chemistry between the characters remains, and I think that's why for the first time since my fanfiction days, I have consistently written something new almost every single day for over a week now.  It's not huge, a week and some change, but it's a big step for me, and a positive one at that.

Monday, January 21

Why I Find Naming Things Impossible (otherwise known as the explanation behind the name)

When you name something, whether it be a pet, character, or car, you want it to be just right.  That name will identify the person, thing, whatever, for as long as it shall live (so to speak).  I am notorious for taking eons to name anything, particularly characters.  Often, I name a character, change its name, change it back, give it a third name, and still don't decide until I've written one of the names so many times that it becomes the default when mentioning that character.  OR I just do this _____ in place of the character's name and end up with lots of blanks all over the place.  It's awful, but I can't help but feel like everything has a perfect name.  Five months ago I bought my first car (of my own).  I knew there was any one of a few cars I really wanted, and different colors I could tolerate.  I had a name picked out for each type of car/color--if I got a red anything it was going to be Auntie Snix;  if I got any car with a moonroof it was going to be Moony.  I ended up with a little blue hatchback with a moonroof--but Moony seemed too masculine for her.  It just wasn't right!  So I named her Luna Moony.  The cute name that fit her, but still the Moony I had my heart set on.

When I decided I wanted to write a blog again, particularly focused on writing, I hadn't the slightest clue what to name it.  Just my name?  Meh.  I have yet to decide what name I want to (eventually in the somewhere distant future) publish under--chances are my name will be changing by the time that day comes (or will possibly be changing not long after) so that's a decision to be made later.  And as such, not a good blog name.  I thought about playing off of the word INK...  As a person who prefers to write in a notebook with an ink pen, and who also has a gigantic love affair with tattoos I thought it would be fitting, but the few names I came up with that I liked were taken, and I know of an InkyGirl and didn't want to have anything close to her name.  So I started to think about what kind of stories I write.  I have begun writing or are in the process of writing five different novels to this point (I know, I have the WORST writer's ADD), and none of them are really anything alike except for having one thing in common.  All of my main characters are spunky, quirky, strong-willed female characters.  Quirky is one of my favorite words, and it always makes me happy when someone uses it to describe me--my favorite things about myself are all of the weird stuff that makes me a little different.  Because of this I find that I translate that part of me into my creative works--my main characters in writing, and in my artwork, too.  When I had considered starting an Etsy to sell my artwork (on hold because my sister and I are collaborating on one) I wanted to name it Spunk & Spice.  Because I like to make things whether it's jewelry, paintings, or drawings that are just a little bit funky.  When I told my boyfriend what I was thinking of naming this blog he said, "Well, that's fitting."  And that decided it for me.  It reflects me, it describes the characters that I write, and also it sounds a little bit like Pumpkin Spice and anyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with Starbucks, so I kinda like that, too. ;]

Why I'm Here (otherwise known as Welcome to Kas Rambles 101)

A little over two weeks ago I walked into work as if it were any other Friday afternoon.  Ten minutes later I found myself unexpectedly walking back out, flooded by the strangest mixture of relief and devastation.  For three and a half months I had been working at a wine store, recruited by the owner's wife--a regular customer at my previous job.  I had become bored at that job and was looking for something new, and when the woman described the position as, "in need of a young creative mind to join our small team--to do creative projects around the store, help with design work, and work to bring in a younger crowd," I thought it sounded perfect.  When the owner went a step further and promised to teach me about owning a small business I took the job without even a tiny glance back.

Reality set in as soon as day one.  What I thought would be just introductory tasks... stocking shelves, reorganizing shelves, stocking more shelves, and carrying around cases of wine and beer became my every day life.  Signs were needed on occasion, and throughout the three months I was able to take on less than a handful of creative tasks, but for the most part I was a glorified errand girl.  Oh, the trash needs to be taken out?  Sure.  Oh, the floor needs to be swept?  No biggie.  Oh, more stocking?  Cool.  Oh, we're out of labels?  Sure, I'll run to Staples.  Oh, we need to rearrange the shelves again?  Mmkay.  Oh, we need paint?  I can go get that.  Oh, the dishes need to be done?  Leave it to me.  Oh, you need me to make one more of this boring identical sign?  Yep, be done in 20 seconds.  Any of those tasks scattered amongst everything I had been promised would have been tolerable, but to have such high expectations and wake up to the reality of THAT?  I was bored out of my mind.  That Friday, the owner asked me how I felt about working at the store.  I answered honestly.  I was learning, I enjoyed the people, but I needed more of a challenge.  He decided it wasn't going to work.

As much as it felt like a slap in the face, and as borderline panicked as I have felt the past two weeks scrambling to find a new job, it has also been incredibly refreshing to just breathe a little.  About a week ago I decided to open up my NaNoWriMo story--of which I had only written around 10,000 words--and play around with it.  I started writing, and in just a few days I doubled my word count, a pace that is not just unheard, but borderline miraculous for me.  I realized how much I had missed writing, and how much I had missed the excitement and energy at the start of a new story.  I contacted a writer friend for help on something in my story, and was pleasantly surprised when she asked if I wanted to be writing buddies.  We are both notoriously sporadic writers who tend to slip away into life and neglect our writing, so we decided that together maybe we can motivate each other to keep at it.  I started quick editing and sending her what I had written thus far, and her feedback has not only helped me fill in gaps, and pace my beginning, but our conversations have sparked ideas that add layers to the story that had never occurred to me before.

Throughout this crash landing back into my own writing, and seeing how incredibly helpful just a few email exchanges had been, I realized how much I missed the writing community I had tentatively introduced myself to the first time I attempted blogging.  What had started as a way to connect with other writers and bloggers, and learn, ended up as a place to vent, and I realized that that was not what I wanted my blog to be.  I shut it down, and hadn't really considered starting another one until this week.  And here I am.  I'm not yet sure exactly what this blog will be, but I hope that it is a way to keep myself writing more regularly and continuously learning more and more from all of the expert-like folks whose blogs I follow.

xo Kas